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Comment author: thomblake 21 November 2011 07:10:19PM 2 points [-]

I live in (and am from near) New Haven, CT, USA, and I have a background primarily in Philosophy.

A vague proposition is one which has an uncertain meaning - 'meaning' is of course tied up in relevance and context. So observing that a patient coughs is a 'vague' symptom in the sense that the relevant 'meaning' is an answer to the question "What disease does the patient have?" and the answer is unclear.

In the above, Caledonian is stating that "trying to make reality a safe and cozy haven will only cause harm". I do not see this as in any way vague, since it has a clear referent. If anyone were to try to make reality a safe an cozy haven, and caused anything other than harm in doing so, then the proposition would turn out to have been false. You can unambiguously sort worlds where the proposition is true from worlds where the proposition is false.

I'm not sure from previous comments on this thread what definition of 'vague' you were employing or how it differs from this.

Comment author: Torgamous 21 November 2011 08:06:04PM 0 points [-]

Ah, I see. That makes sense now; your previous example had led me to believe that the difference was much greater than it is. I had been using "vague" to mean that it didn't sharply limit the number of anticipated experiences; there are lots of things that are harmful that cover a range of experiences, and so saying that something will "cause harm" is vague. For the disease question, "vague" would be saying "he has a virus"; while that term is very clearly defined, it doesn't tell you if the person has a month to live or just has this year's flu, so the worlds in which the statement is true can vary greatly and you can't plan a whole lot based on it. Ironically, my definition seems a lot vaguer than yours now that they've both been defined.

And now I can happily say the matter's resolved.

Comment author: thomblake 16 November 2011 08:35:00PM 0 points [-]

Aha. Again, a definitional problem. I would indeed regard the claim "dropping this rock will cause something to happen" as specific, and trivially true; it is not vague - there is no question of its truth value or meaning.

I think this is resolved.

Comment author: Torgamous 21 November 2011 04:10:38PM 0 points [-]

I'm sorry, I want this conversation to be over too, and I don't mean to be rude, but this has been bugging me all week: where did you get that definition from, and where do you live? Literally everyone I have interacted with or read stuff from before you, including published authors, used the same definitions of "specific" and "vague" that I do, and in ways obvious enough that your confusion confuses me.

Comment author: thomblake 16 November 2011 08:11:24PM 0 points [-]

The issue I have is that his initial proposition, though it may possibly be true, has a wide range of possible truenesses, no indication which trueness the poster was aiming for, and may very possibly have been made without a particular value of potential truth in mind.

I don't see how that's the case. It seems very specific to me. In the statement "X will only cause Y" are you confused about the meaning of X, Y, "will only cause", or something else I'm missing? (X="trying to make ... reality a safe and cozy haven", Y="harm")

Comment author: Torgamous 16 November 2011 08:32:07PM 0 points [-]

I take issue with Y. "Harm", though it does have a definition, is a very, very broad term, encompassing every negative eventuality imaginable. Saying "X will cause stuff" only doubles the number of applicable outcomes. That does not meet my definition of "specific".

Comment author: thomblake 16 November 2011 06:59:00PM 0 points [-]

An argument is a series of statements ("propositions") that are intended to support a particular conclusion. For example, "Socrates is a man. All men are mortal. Therefore, Socrates is mortal." Just as one sentence is not a paragraph, one proposition is not an argument.

There is no question of whether "trying to make reality a safe and cozy haven will only cause harm" is a valid argument because it's not an argument at all. This is an argument:

  • If we try to make reality a safe and cozy haven, then we will only cause harm.
  • We are trying to make reality a safe and cozy haven
  • Therefore, we will only cause harm.

Note that this is a valid argument; the truth of the conclusion follows necessarily from the truth of its premises. If you have any problems with it, it is with its soundness, the extent to which the propositions presented are true. It sounds like you think the first proposition is false, but you are claiming Caledonian made an invalid argument instead. If that is the case, you're making a category mistake.

Comment author: Torgamous 16 November 2011 07:45:33PM 0 points [-]

And now we're disputing definitions. I was using argument to mean what you've defined as propositions; it was a mistake in labeling, but the category is the same. Regardless, the falseness of his proposition is not an issue. The issue I have is that his initial proposition, though it may possibly be true, has a wide range of possible truenesses, no indication which trueness the poster was aiming for, and may very possibly have been made without a particular value of potential truth in mind. If that's soundness, then yeah, I took issue with the soundness of his proposition.

Comment author: thomblake 16 November 2011 05:36:14PM 1 point [-]

I fail to see how the age of the argument is relevant. And it was not an argument, it was a proposition.

Caledonian was asserting that "trying to make reality a safe and cozy haven will only cause harm". This is a fairly well-specified prediction (to the extent that one can observe whether or not X is "trying to" Y in general) and may be true or false. It is not an excuse, nor an argument, nor particularly nebulous.

Though as I mentioned, in general (if taken strictly) assertions that a real-world action will have precisely one sort of effect are false.

Comment author: Torgamous 16 November 2011 06:50:36PM 1 point [-]

The age of the proposition and the ease with which it can be applied to a variety of situations is an indication that, when such a proposition is made, it should be examined and justified in more detail before being declared a valid argument. Causing harm, given the subject matter, could mean a variety of things from wasted funds to the death of the firstborn children of every family in Egypt. Lacking anything else in the post to help determine what kind and degree of harm was meant or even where the idea that failed attempts will be harmful came from, the original assertion comes across, to me, as a vague claim meant to inspire a negative reaction. It may be true or false, but the boundaries of "true" are not very clearly defined.

I understand that it is probably wrong, and I understand that you know that too. I'm discussing this because I want to know if I'm doing something wrong when determining the validity of an argument. We also seem to be using different definitions of "argument"; I merely see it as a better-sounding synonym of proposition. No negative connotations were meant to be invoked.

Comment author: thomblake 16 November 2011 05:04:05PM 1 point [-]

The idea that they "will only cause harm" is incredibly nebulous, and sounds more like an excuse to accept the status quo than a valid argument.

That they will only cause harm is a particular proposition, which may well be true (though taken strictly its probability is about 0).

Comment author: Torgamous 16 November 2011 05:31:22PM 0 points [-]

How so? "No good will come of this" is an incredibly old argument that's been applied to all kinds of things, and as far as I know rarely has a specific basis. What aspect of his argument am I missing?

Comment author: [deleted] 13 November 2011 11:37:21PM 5 points [-]

Read my post again. It's not a matter of speed vs colour, it's a matter of “there is a maximum possible value of [quantity], much greater than almost all values of [quantity] you experience in everyday life, and weirder and weirder things happen the closer you get to it” vs “there is one particular value of [quantity], well within the range of values of [quantity] you experience in everyday life, at which weird things happens, though nothing weird happens at even very slightly smaller or larger values of [quantity]”.

Anyway, I think the post would be more effective at getting the point across if the true statements were clearly weirder (even factoring in hindsight bias) than the false ones, whereas here the intention appears to be making them approximately equally as weird.

In response to comment by [deleted] on Stranger Than History
Comment author: Torgamous 15 November 2011 02:52:56PM 3 points [-]

Yes, if given a choice to believe one or the other, we'd all probably choose the speed one. But the person in 1901 is not being given the color option as a counterpoint, they're just being told "if you go really, really fast, reality turns into an Escher painting." I don't know about you, but had I been born in 1901, I'm pretty sure I'd sooner believe in Scientology.

Comment author: [deleted] 13 September 2011 11:58:36AM 3 points [-]

Maybe some kind of hindsight bias is at work, but I think I would have found Statement 2' a lot less crazy than Statement 2: the latter requires there being several billion male prostitutes, which (assuming that less than 20% of all males will be prostitutes and about 50% of all people will be male) would require a world population of several tens of billions.

(One of the main reasons why I would've found Statement 1' very unlikely is the “exactly 670616629.2” part, but I'm sure that was not your point: I'm sure you would assign a much lower prior to “I (army1987) generated a random 32-bit number a few minutes ago and it was 735,416,352” than to “... and it was more than 1 billion”, but you won't be shocked to know only the former is true. So I'll pretend it said “between 600 and 700 million miles per hour” instead.) I think I would've found Statement 1 crazier than 1', too: the idea that one particular colour (within the convex hull of the set of all colours I've seen before) has quasi-magical powers but an ever-so-slightly bluer or greener one has no weird properties at all sounds pretty bizarre to me (and possibly unfalsifiable, if there exist infinitely many colours), in a way that the idea that there is a speed (several orders of magnitude larger than anybody ever experienced) such that weirder and weirder things happen the closest you get to it wouldn't.

In response to comment by [deleted] on Stranger Than History
Comment author: Torgamous 15 November 2011 02:39:40PM 9 points [-]

Statement 2 is more plausible than you think. Given the stated sizes of the spheres, it's highly unlikely that they exist solely as prostitute storage units. I'd suggest that they're aerial habitats, and prostitutes are just one of their many exports to the surface. They also offer really awesome bungee rides.

Alternatively, they could be organism production facilities, and the prostitutes are produced on site upon being ordered. They also offer pet velociraptors and colorful ponies.